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Is the European gas network ready for hydrogen?

European countries are on the quest for industrial decarbonization. To get the job done, the countries must meet European and local climate protection targets. Such a commendable effort calls for the involvement of national industries across all sectors with clear goals in mind: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and decreasing the pace of climate change.

To start, a restructuration of the gaseous energy sources is mandatory. This assessment is crucial because it will help to decarbonize existing gas systems. And secondly, it will vouch for the success of the energy turnaround policy, which is dependent on gas resources.

To this end, new regulatory and technical frameworks are in development. The resulting conditions will guide the industry into its next phase: 

The conversion path of the (natural) gas infrastructure into a hydrogen (H2) economy!

But is the European gas network ready for hydrogen?

We have researched for them and summarized the relevant aspects in our blog article. Continue reading below to find out. 

Steam injection a common enhanced oil recovery method

Infrastructure is one of the top priorities to lay eyes on after committing to stop all greenhouse emissions by 2050. Moreover, when decarbonizing an entire industrial sector is implicit. So, that is one of the fronts European countries have been working on since signing the Paris Agreement in 2016. 

Fortunately, an ideal solution presented itself. Even so, it is far from being a miracle answer. Of course, we are talking about hydrogen as an energy carrier! A sure path to tackle decarbonization. Though, not without some hurdles. Like the lack of infrastructure available for storage and distribution.

A new proposal came into fruition to compensate for the H2 infrastructure shortage. The premise is simple. Move forward with an H2-centered decarbonization program that maximizes the use of existing/available infrastructure. 

The firm plan will install the blending of hydrogen into natural gas according to these considerations:

#1 Repurposing the nation's gas infrastructure to handle the eventual natural gas-hydrogen mixture.

Germany alone, for example, has a robust national gas network with a length of more than 540,000 km and 47 underground storage facilities. As a whole, it can hold nearly a quarter of Germany’s annual consumption. There rests the potential to ensure a joint service of natural gas and H2 through the same infrastructure to meet future goals.

#2 Creating a balanced supply chain between producers, operators, and consumers.

The balance should honor agreements (operational and commercial). Plus, lean toward a decarbonization path that all parties accept and follow. 

#3 Building of a new hydrogen economy.

It must be supportive of the country’s energetic strategies over time. Even more, carrying them forward without compromising the environment. 

Let’s dive into the details awaiting the plans to blend hydrogen with natural gas. 

European project “Ready 4H2”

Besides the Paris Agreement, the European Union also seeks to meet local climate goals envisioned for a similar purpose. The Fit-for-55 package is one of them. A commitment to incorporate to the current energy mix more renewable sources. The target aims to increase today’s 32% presence of renewable energy to, at least, 40% by 2030.

In other efforts, the EU also opened a levelized collaboration channel called the Ready 4H2 project. This initiative collects expertise, experiences, and better practices on hydrogen. The insights gathered come from European companies dedicated to the gas distribution business. The work done is a backbone to support the step-by-step conversion of gas networks into 100% hydrogen-operated areas. The project is also a platform to debate and agree upon diverse topics of interest, such as:

It is worthy to say that the consolidation of primary industry knowledge under one roof makes these pressing issues easier to pick and faster to address. Moreover, this centralized approach is vital to secure Europe’s path as a hydrogen-ready integrated territory in time. 

Germany - Hydrogen hub for Europe

It’s not hard to think about Germany as a strategic location and Europe’s top hydrogen hub. After all, the country has favorable conditions up for the task:

In addition, and as mentioned earlier, the distribution network is fit to handle H2 blends. A first step to take on before making the transition to 100% H2.

With everything going, it is fair to say that a rising industrial culture to be climate-neutral is starting to find roots in Germany. 

Conclusion - What comes next?

As to what comes next, the plan to be a hydrogen-ready region is unfolding right before our eyes. Its foundation lies in the repurposing of gas infrastructure. To what end? Building a reliable hydrogen economy. On a step-by-step approach.

Such a commendable mission resonates in every possible lane, pushing the willingness to:
1. Adequate and create regulatory measures specific to renewable sources.
2. Define the technical instructions to follow under blending conditions.
3. Form a hub that can be a pilot to growing operations across Europe.
4. Shape a balanced supply chain link between producers, operators, and consumers.

These four macro-goals are in our eyes the puzzle pieces to solve in the short-term future. Their definition is key to ensure the 2050 targets are reached on time.

Image Source: © Grispb (Adobe Stock) & AS-Schneider